I gave birth during Covid and all I got was this amazing baby girl
First off all the trigger warnings for talk of babies and traumatic labours. Second off this is my story with no fault or blame to be placed on anyone, least myself. Lastly this will not be everyones cup of tea and that’s ok, you have been warned read if you want and don’t if you don’t
On a routine check a few days before my due date my midwife said ‘so I can see your induction has been booked for Sunday’. I was shocked as no one had told me I was being induced, and especially not in 4 days. I explained how confused I was and she said she’d call the hospital to make sure it wasn’t a mistake. They confirmed my consultant had requested my induction and at 39 weeks pregnant, on my own in the room I said ok then. Assuming that if my consultant had asked for it, it was needed. Attending these appointments alone had become a normality in my pregnancy, but not having my partners brain available at this last stage to push and ask the hard questions was the start of a series of unfortunate events that lead to a very difficult birth.
On Sunday James and I turned up to hospital for my booked induction at 10am, we had been told he could be there for the induction only to have him turned away at the door. Due to covid I had to go it alone. I kissed him and nervously walked in to a room where I was left alone. A midwife entered and told me I was early (i wasn’t), she said I should have been called and told that my induction was delayed (I hadn’t). So I sat in a room on my own, well me and bump and waited. I waited 2 an a half hours and then a consultant came in. He told me what would happen, I had read online that I could go home in-between my induction and active labour, I asked if I could and he said no, due to covid I would have to go to the ward. I should have gone home.
I had a balloon inserted at lunch time and was told that it was to be removed in 12 hours. I went to the ward and settled in. Tried to get some sleep, walked around the hospital and got ready for the midnight, 1am call up. I knew once I went through to delivery Jim could be with me and I wanted him there so badly. Midnight came and went and nothing happened. I called for a midwife, ‘oh don’t worry you are next’. I called my husband excited. At 4am the woman across from me in the ward was taken through. I called the midwife ‘oh no, no one should have told you that, you won’t be taken through till shift handover at 8am’. I was so sad, I called Jim and told him to rest up and to come in at 8am. 8am came and went I called for a midwife again. ‘It’s very busy, it might be a while’. I broke down. I knew I had a 24 hour window for the balloon to be removed. I explained this meant I had a mere few hours left, I felt like I was a ticking time bomb and I was quite quickly dismissed.
I called Jim in tears, alone in hospital and scared. He called in to complain, which did prompt some response. With 20 minutes to go before my time was up two consultants came to my bedside to explain the options. If they take the balloon out they have 2 hours to break my waters or we have to start again and they’re not sure they have space for me in delivery, or they leave the balloon in and it’s unlikely to do any harm. I was in tears, what does unlikely mean?! Is this my choice? Is this your choice? The two consultants had a debate (aka argument) in front of me fighting for each side and settled on leaving it in, I didn’t have a say, I’m not even sure they knew I was there by the end of it. I sat tired, deflated, heartbroken, the exact opposite of the zen calm state I should be in for a positive labour. I was so tired and deflated, I just sat staring at the wall wondering if this was all normal, if I was over-reacting?!
27 hours went by from my induction and I was finally called through to delivery. I called Jim straight away, he was there in minutes. I hugged him so hard. My waters were broken and now we were underway. Except we weren’t. We then had to wait another 4 hours for the synthetic drip to start, again delivery was too busy and our doctor was needed elsewhere. I totally understand emergencies need their attention, but we were left in a room for 4 hours with no information. This was valuable time when I could have been sleeping or resting but instead we just sat waiting. I had now been awake for the best part of 32 hours.
At shift handover we got our midwives who would stay with us until our baby girl was here and despite what unfolded they were an incredible team. Once my drip was started things went downhill pretty quickly. My contractions had started before the synthetic hormone was administered, and the influx of drugs made our little ladie’s heart rate drop. To the scary point of emergency buttons being pushed and teams of medical professionals being in the room. I have never been so scared in all my life and the team of people by my side instantly was incredibly reassuring.
The next hurdle was my heart murmur, something I had told my midwife at my very first appointment but had caused no concern up until this point. In came some more consultants who asked why I hadn’t told anyone about it, strong accusation in their voices. In between very strong contractions, and a medical team attaching monitors to the babies head inside me, I told them I had, and no one had been concerned. They clearly did not believe me. They were clearly concerned! I was then hooked up to an ECG and had god knows how many blood tests taken. A particular low was someone trying to get blood out of my hand whilst I was having strong contractions, and just poking me over and over again and unable to get anything from me. I think I said something like ‘please can you just do that another time’. By this point I was in a bad way. I had a fever and had been being quite sick. I’d contracted an infection, a bad one and I was at high risk of passing it to the baby. I was extremely tired and asked for an epidural which was administered quickly and professionally, and allowed me to get some much needed rest.
I was woken to the news that it was time to push, still feverish, still shaking, still broken. I had said all along that I didn’t want my epidural to numb me completely I wanted to be able to move and feel some of what was going on. I think this was helpful for what came next. First time mothers are given 2 hours to push before intervention is offered. I was told that due to my heart condition I would be allotted 30 minutes or it would be the slice me open approach. I honestly thought fuck that, I am not going through everything I’ve just been through to not push this baby out of me so that’s what I did. I was allowed 47 minutes in the end to get her out, and I was so proud of myself in that moment. There is so much stigma around epidurals, as if you have one then you have somehow cheated in labour, I can wholeheartedly say I didn’t cheat or take the easy way out. I gave everything I had and if it wasn’t for that needle in my back I really don’t know what would have happened.
I would love to say things improved from there, but the next few days were the loneliest and hardest of my life. Alone on a ward to recover from a serious infection, hooked up to an IV and taking care of a newborn who was also poorly, with just a 45 minute visit from my partner. Visiting hours restricted due to covid. I hoped this restriction meant that the teams that were there to take care of us all would be able to really support the women and babies, but that was not my experience. I will not go into all the poor treatment I felt we received in hospital but to give a flavour on our second night I was in floods of tears at 3 am with a screaming newborn begging, and I mean actually begging, a midwife to help me get just 20 minutes of sleep. I was broken, alone, scared, anxious, extremely ill, and a new mum. The day I got discharged was the happiest day, recovering at home so much easier and simpler, support from my partner felt like a miracle. But none of that should be a miracle, women should be able to have all the support they need after giving birth.
From that moment although we settled well in to home life and our recovery increased. The support for us as a new family continued to be non-existent. The lack of support for the women especially was so paramount. What other major trauma do you go through where you have no follow up?! My husband had more checks following his broken leg than I had after pushing out a near 9lb baby with a world of complications. The one check-up supposedly for you, is purely focussed around contraception. An actual joke that doesn’t consider the woman and her bleeding, broken, disfigured genitalia, but instead assumes that her priority is to please her partner once again. The idea that women need to ‘bounce back’ quickly from pregnancy really is ingrained in our medical professionals almost as much as it is portrayed on social media.
Following the birth I felt like I had failed. I’d done the hypnobirthing, I’d followed the breathing and positive affirmations and nice music and it didn’t work for me, did I do it wrong?! There was only places to write and share your positive birth story, no one wanted to hear my negative birth story, but I wanted to talk about it. I can’t tell you how many times I heard “but she’s here now and healthy” a very true and well meaning statement, yet it’s a dismissive one, one that says your pain doesn’t matter, you are not important here. Something I personally feel a lot of as a new mum, suddenly your needs are second in every which way to your beautiful new babies.
So here it is, my very negative birth story, a catharsis for myself. And a message to anyone who needs to know that however your baby came out of you, I’m in actual awe. You are the most incredible, strong, beautiful women and if you feel cheated by covid, I do too. I’m loving my baby girl, I’m loving being a mum but I am still grieving for a normal pregnancy, a normal birth, a normal recovery – whatever that is…
I will leave you with this. I know my baby girl will grow up to be a strong woman, because she was born in to a time that demanded the most strength from her mother and all the women that have delivered during this pandemic.